Probabilities/Odds

There are two distinctive ways of communicating information - words and numbers. In our modern society it is important to be both literate and numerate. Those who lack either the confidence or skills to employ basic arithmetic and statistics are at a distinct disadvantage when examining medical claims. Without practical numeracy, a person is left defenseless against those who would take advantage of their good will and resources.

We live in a world that is obsessed with certainty, something that really doesn’t exist. Our world is actually based on probabilities or odds, levels of certainty something less than 100%. We have several very lucrative industries that work very hard to make us think you can add to the only certainties we know of - death and taxes.

These levels of certainty or odds are really very familiar to us. We might buy a lottery ticket every day but know the odds of winning are extremely low. The odds can be increased in a lottery if we limit the number of players. Instead of millions of players let’s reduce the number to 1000. Have our odds increased? Absolutely! Let's limit the number of players to 100. Our odds are now 1% or 1 out of 100 to win if we hold only one ticket. If you buy up 70 of the tickets our odds, or the certainty that we will win, would be 70% or 70 out of 100. Could we still lose? Absolutely!

Let’s apply the certainty concept to disease and medical treatment by studying a large, random population of our fellow citizens - 100,000 is a good round number. Since it is truly random, all ages, sexes, economic circumstances etc. are included in the study. By collecting medical data we can determine that out of that population a certain number will die of cancer. Does that number have any real meaning to you? Probably not!

How about dividing up the population into age groups and then seeing how many die of cancer. We call these groups cohorts in med-speak. Now we can look for cancer by age and we’ll find that it becomes increasingly more probable the older we become - our odds go right up along with our age. We can further divide our cohorts (age grouping) into smaller groups by adding any number of variables - females between 50 and 60 years of age for example. We can create any cohort we want by restricting the population to specific characteristics.

By adding more variables to our age-based cohorts we can run the numbers and see if that increases or decreases our cancer risk. If a variable like obesity increases our odds of cancer then it is called a risk factor. As we add more risk factors to our smaller group we will probably see the statistical odds of getting cancer increase. If we are older and have many of the variables implicated in cancer does that mean we will get the disease? The answer is "no" but we are pushing up the odds just like buying more tickets for the lottery - only this time it’s about losing rather than winning.

Let’s look at increasing our odds of getting well instead of sick since that is what the Iris BreastCancerChip™ is all about. Until very recently breast cancer was considered "one" disease to be treated in a trial and error fashion under the guidance of a physician’s past experience. It is now well documented that breast cancer is a genomic disease and comes in many forms. Treatment options can run the full gamut from very aggressive to wait and monitor. The ability to categorize a large population of patients according to their genomic profile into smaller groups is the necessary fine tuning required to select the best treatment for each patient.

Today, with genetic tests like the Iris BreastCancerChip™, physicians will be able to categorize women into specific groups just like we did with our random population above. The true value of Iris BioTechnologies test is that it looks at more than the 100 genes scientists have shown to be involved in breast cancer. Patients are also asked to add personal lifestyle information along with their medical history to an ever-expanding international database that is capable of fine tuning medical cohorts.

By uncovering lifestyle and environmental patterns, interfacing them with genomic profiles and successful medical protocols, the more finely tuned your cohort becomes and the more your probabilities increase for a successful cure with fewer side effects.